The reserve is still looking relatively green despite a drier summer than we would have liked. There was at least adequate rain to fill the local dam and keep the grazing and browsing in a reasonable condition through the summer months. The game viewing has continued to be excellent and with the vegetation starting to thin we are expecting a bumper dry season. Predator sightings have improved year on year with the challenges of the 2016 CDV outbreak well behind us. The Welgevonden scientific committee has continued with game introductions and the plains projects which are making excellent progress and playing a big role in the ever improving game viewing. The reserve is also playing a key role in Rhino conservation.
The last year has seen a number of upgrades to the lodge and facilities. We have just installed a faster and more efficient WIFI network in the main lodge. The staff facilities are being upgraded and the maintenance teams have just completed new balustrades amongst other improvements.
Last year October we wrote about the 3 orphaned Cheetahs who lost their mother and we are happy to report that all 3 have survived and continue to do well on the reserve. We have been blessed with fantastic sightings of the 3 youngsters. In an amazing sighting the 3 Cheetahs had pulled down an Impala only for a spotted Hyena to arrive on the scene. Spotted Hyena will normally dominate the Cheetah and chase them off the kill but to the ranger’s surprise the 3 cheetah used their numbers and not only defended the kill but sent the Hyena scurrying off in the other direction. They have certainly matured and formed a formidable coalition!
We were enjoying coffee and rusks one morning before drive when the silence was all of a sudden broken by the distress calls of Zebra very close to the lodge. We knew from the frantic calls and sound of hooves churning up the dirt that the lions were close by and only seconds later we heard the lions take down one of the zebras. It was a little disturbing listening to the primal sounds of a lion kill but it was nature taking its course and something you don’t hear very often. We were unable to find the lions as they were just out of sight but fortunately the lionesses with bulging bellies came to quench their thirst at our local waterhole where we got to see the impressive western pride females. These two females have become exceptional at catching zebra which by biomass are the most common herbivore on the reserve.
In another interesting development we are being visited by vultures on a far more regular basis. Despite the fact that we have one of the largest breeding colonies of the Cape Vulture only a few kilometres south of the reserve in the Marakele mountains, these vultures did not forage much on the reserve and generally followed certain routes which may be driven by air currents. In the last year or two the vultures have truly discovered Welgevonden and it is not unusual to find large numbers feeding on carcasses in the reserve. These birds are critically endangered due to their susceptibility to poisoning so it is very encouraging to see they can make use of the sanctuary provided by Welgevonden.
We are very privileged to live in such a beautiful place and we look forward to welcoming all our guests through the winter season!
Greetings - the wild ivory team